Why Are Government Officials in Iraq Giving Death Threats to Universities?

Corruption before... and corruption after...

(NY Times) Coveted Jobs in Iraq Breed Diploma Fraud


Published: October 10, 2011

BAGHDAD — For two years, an assistant dean at Iraq’s largest university received threats from a police officer: sign a fraudulent document certifying that the officer had graduated from the university, the dean was told, or he would be arrested or even killed.

The dean, Dr. Rahif al-Essawi, steadfastly refused, and on the last day of exams in June, the officer followed through on the threats and beat the dean and threw him in jail, Dr. Essawi said.

In Iraq, the police have long intimidated or beaten civilians, whether under Saddam Hussein or during the years since the United States invaded in 2003.

But the beating of the dean and similar episodes in recent months represent a growing problem that this weary nation has been forced to confront: rampant diploma fraud. Last year, an investigation by Parliament identified more than 5,000 government officials who had lied about their education, including government ministers and members of Parliament.

Like many oil-rich countries in the Middle East, Iraq uses its oil revenue to employ people, often in jobs in government — the country’s largest employer — that do not require a lot of effort. After the United States overthrew Mr. Hussein, tens of thousands of highly educated Iraqis who had run the government fled the country, and many who stayed were excluded from remaining in the government.

Iraqis from the countryside flocked to Baghdad as the government was slowly rebuilt, hoping to become civil servants, jobs that come with significant salaries and perks like free land. The problem for these people, however, was that an Iraqi law that dates from before Mr. Hussein seized power requires government workers to have completed certain levels of education.

Many people seeking jobs in the reformulated government lacked the appropriate diplomas, but they were able to exploit the fact that many public documents had been destroyed after the fall of the Hussein government. Without adequate records about who had graduated from which school, many Iraqis pressed school officials to sign documents that said they had graduated from schools that they had never even attended.

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Also see The “Cui Bono” CultureHow Corrupt Were We in 2010?Beautiful People Are More Entitled…How Did China Cause the Egyptian Revolution? and A Theory of Everything: Are We “Fighting For An Accessible Future?”

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